February is American Heart Month friends! While I spend most of this month working with the American Heart Association to raise awareness for heart disease and stroke, I also want to take a moment to share this month’s vital messaging with all of you, my clients and readers because healthy hearts are good for us all!
In my latest newsletter we talked about 6 Tips To Decrease Added Sugar for a Healthier Heart. To continue that theme we’re diving deeper into sugars. If you’re trying to live a healthy lifestyle, you’ve probably heard that you should stay away from sugar. In fact, reducing added sugar from your diet can result in faster weight loss, reduced risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke.
You get lots of healthy sugars through the fruits you eat and aside from an occasional treat to splurge on once in a while, and you might think you’ve successfully navigated away from added sugar.
Some things that we perceive as healthy are actually riddled with more hidden sugar than your favorite bowl of ice cream or bakery treats. Here is a list of the top offenders and what to do:
Greek yogurt is often encouraged as a wise choice because it contains less
sugar due to the straining process. There’s an exception to that though when it
has flavoring added in. One cup of flavored Greek yogurt can pack 12+ grams
of sugar, so check your labels before tossing it in your shopping cart.
It sounds healthy, but even a small container of applesauce could have 22
grams of sugar. Make it yourself using ground cinnamon to add flavor if you
need an extra touch of flavor in your applesauce or buy prepackaged applesauce that has “no added sugar”.
Smoothies made outside the home can contain ingredients like ice cream, sherbet,
fruit juice, or flavored syrups to the tune of 60 grams of sugar per serving. If you’d like to have a smoothie, know what’s going in it. Better yet, make it yourself, so you have complete control. Need inspiration? Check out this post on How to Build a Healthy Smoothie or download my free Soothing Smoothies ebook here with 5 delicious healthy smoothie recipes.
Nut butters can give us a nice dose of protein and keep us on an even keel
during a busy day. But highly processed nut butters often contain added sugars. Be sure you are checking food label and review the ingredients list to find out if yours contains added sugars such as cane sugar, honey, or corn syrup. If there are ingredients that end is “ose” listed on the label, toss it. Choose the natural varieties that contain minimal ingredients or simply just nuts.
Oatmeal is an excellent choice for a healthy breakfast but you should be cautious of flavored packets. Choose unsweetened oatmeal such as steel cut or old fashioned oats and top it with fresh fruit or spices such as cinnamon for a taste you’ll love without all that sugar.
Avoid dried fruit that has been coated in candy, chocolate, or yogurt as a healthy snack. When choosing plain dried fruit, always check the food labels as some brands add sugar during processing, loading it with more sugar than you’d expect to find in a packet of dried fruit.
It’s a good rule of thumb to read the food labels for all your sauces from ketchup to barbecue and teriyaki to sweet chili. While some brands offer “reduced sugar” or “no added sugar” claims on their packaging, many of them still have hidden sugars, some more than others. Be mindful of how often and how much you are consuming.
Whether you’re vegan or you need or want to avoid regular milk, be careful which non-dairy choices you make. Almond, soy, cashew, and rice milks can have as much as 10 grams of sugar. Be sure to choose unsweetened and unflavored varieties of these non-dairy milks instead.
Don’t forget when you switch to whole grain breads to always look for the sugar content. Narrow down your selection to a brand with 2 grams of sugar per slice or less.
Swallowing those jumbo vitamins is such a hassle. It’s great that someone
came up with vitamins in gummy-form. However, you might be getting more
sugar than you bargained for. Check out the label to be sure.
The bottom line is this: hidden sugars are in some of the least suspecting
places. Read your labels and make wise choices to keep your sugar intake to
the bare minimum.
Need more information on how to read a food label for sugar? Download this sugars handout for additional details.
Priscilla Askew is a Nutrition & Dietetic Technician, Registered. She loves all things related to health & fitness and blogs about her adventures in running, triathlon, and nutrition.